Both things can be true.
It’s certainly true right now that the Atlanta Falcons are underachieving in a frustrating way for the talent on the roster and in the coaching room.
The team’s inconsistencies are growing old and more worrisome as time goes on, and it’s just not ideal to have a team laden with such potential for greatness stall out in the driveway like they have at times this season. We should expect more.
It’s also certainly true that the man taking the brunt of the ire right now, head coach Dan Quinn, is still a marvelous motivating force, astute assessor of talent and, for the most part, shrewd schemer.
And he deserves at least the rest of the season to figure out what ails his Falcons. Please keep your rotten tomatoes and rogue heads of cabbage in your basket.
I’ll bite; while I love the guy, Quinn is not perfect. At times, he’s a little tone deaf in his rhetoric and too reliant on in-house talent to solve injury issues. Some of his tropes grow tiresome, from his team-building slogans to his coach-speak press conference evaluations, and no one could accuse him of fielding the most disciplined team in the NFL.
His style of “fast and physical” play can, on occasion, lead to penalties and a lack of cerebral attention, which leads to coverage breakdowns and missed tackles. When all you’re focused on is making the play, sometimes you miss the little details that make plays in the first place.
The blown leads and gassed defenses are unfortunate highlights of Quinn’s time at the helm, and they just aren’t solving themselves like they should over time. It’s a problem that needs to be solved.
The team’s culture, a brotherhood that plays for each other as its primary motivation to succeed, doesn’t really grow stale with the types of guys you bring in, but it can lead to a lack of applied pressure. When you’re your own accountability in your job, you don’t always succeed like you might if someone is holding you firmly accountable for your mistakes.
I’ve always preferred self-motivation as impetus for success, but it doesn’t work for everybody. Leadership might still be an issue here, with not enough guys in the locker room willing to step up and hold their fellow players accountable for lapses in play and penalties.
They’ve been given the trust to do so, though, and that’s DQ’s vision. It’s certainly fair to see the cracks in Quinn’s era of the Falcons.
Those that wish for a change aren’t off base, and seeing games like Minnesota and Indianapolis happen give you sincere worry the team’s changes in the offseason, like giving DQ more responsibilities in-game with defensive play calling, hiring Bob Sutton to manage the in-game coaching, and adding Dirk Koetter to run the offense, aren’t working right now.
This certainly could be the curtain call for the Quinn era, but he absolutely should not be yanked offstage until he has the full 2019 season to right the ship.
Firing Quinn midway through the season would be a terrible decision and a white flag for 2019, and Arthur Blank knows that. He’s already experienced what happens when a coach isn’t there for the full 16 games, and the team’s process of finding Mike Smith’s replacement caught a lot of flack after they hired a firm with Smith still on staff.
The team isn’t likely to risk bad publicity over this, and to be very honest, Blank has the wisdom to know that you just don’t find bosses like Quinn everywhere: people who are well-loved in the building and who have a steady hand at the helm.
For Quinn’s faults, his positives are overwhelming. He’s a brilliant mind who has helped build a heck of a roster, and he got the team to a Super Bowl in his second year and a road playoff game in his third. If you remove the first year, a time to figure things out, and the fourth year, one marred by injury, he’s been a pretty stellar coach for the team when things are going well.
It’s just hard to find a coach who is good at his job and who the players respond to. It’d be much easier for the Falcons to have Quinn figure things out and find his second wind as a coach than it would be to blow things up in December once again and just hope the team can hire a top-flight candidate who delivers on their promise.
It’s hard to really stomach another lost season, and Quinn by no means should be blameless in this ordeal. It’s his team that’s underwhelming right now, and he’s responsible to make it click.
But I believe in him. I believe, and I hope, he’ll get this sorted out. I have no idea if how he does will be good enough for Blank, and I have no idea if it will be good enough for myself by season’s end. I don’t want to not believe that DQ’s plan will work; I feel strongly about him as a coach and as a person.
But, for folks already making lists for coaching replacements, I’d say let it simmer. The best person to solve this team might be the one already in charge, and you don’t want to cut and run on the person who might figure things out and give you what you need.
Let’s give Quinn time. He’s earned it, and the grass isn’t always greener.